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A Gray and Cloudy Bank Robbery Suspect

Even as a passenger, I was weary from a slow icy drive from the Methow to Spokane. We’d left Twisp at the beginning of the first big snow of the year - early December - a grim drive across the barren fields and pastures of the plateau.

I’d moved to Twisp in August of that year, but was lonely because I had no connection to Washington. Unlike many people in the Methow, I didn’t go to school, didn’t have family, and had no friends in the Northwest. I had accepted a position with the Forest Service completely in the dark. I’d lived in a rental, developed few friends and wasn’t sure I wanted to stick around the area. Laid off after Thanksgiving, when a co-worker said he was driving to northern Wyoming, I decided to tag along.

I missed sunny Colorado weather and my old friends. I thought I could spend the three or so months I’d be laid off visiting, skiing and reconnecting with my parents. They had just moved back to Colorado after seven or eight years living in Scandinavia. I hadn’t seen much of them. Spending Christmas in Denver sounded like a great idea.

The night before we left Twisp, I found a cheap flight from Spokane to Denver via phone reservations, and decided to fly, rather than drive all the way to Wyoming, and then have to make my way south. I called my parents with my flight schedule.

My friend dropped me at the Spokane airport. My flight to Denver, although short, did not leave for several hours. Before airports doubled as food courts and retail shopping malls, food and leisure options were limited. I sat for several hours on the benches that are still directly across from the current ticket counters at the airport. I might have found a bar and had a couple beers, which may have contributed to my later stupidity.

Since I was headed “home” for an extended period, I had a lot of stuff with me; suitcase, a couple of duffel bags, and a large backpack. Checking in with all that, I did get some weird sideways looks from the ticket agent. Especially after paying for a one-way ticket with cash on a reservation made just a day earlier. I didn’t think too much of his nervousness. I should have.

Before my flight, I sat reading on those same hard benches as two uniformed men walked toward me from 45-degree angles, both with hands on the pistols strapped to their hips.

“Hi”, I said, a bit leery.

“Do you have any ID?” they replied, sort of snotty.

Here I committed a mistake. “Are you guys rent-a-cops?” I said, “because I don’t have to show you shit”. (OK – I was 26, after all) As it turned out, they were Spokane County deputies. Deputies don’t like being called rent-a-cops, even if they wear cheesy looking uniforms and look like twitchy bit actors in a bad B movie.

I was escorted to the airport security office. I wasn’t mistreated or manhandled, but there was little doubt about where I was going. Led into a small office, crammed with several desks, I finally re-gained my wits (and my innate coolness) and as casually as I could, I asked, “Soooo, what is this about?”

They explained that there has been an armed bank robbery in Spokane a few days earlier. I remembered reading about the bank heist (this being back in the day when you could buy several decent daily papers in the Methow). One of the deputies said flatly, “You look like the robber” as he laid his steely eyes on me. “And, the airline agent you just checked in with turned you in”. Damn - I thought that guy WAS looking at me strangely.

The deputy pulled a grainy photocopy of a still taken from a surveillance video out of a manila folder and handed it to me. Even though it was poor quality, I had to admit that the picture was reasonably close to my likeness. I have been hounded by this look-a-likeness all my life. Whether it is the size of head, my smile, my haircut, my eyes - I don’t know - but it happens frequently that I am either mistaken for someone or asked “haven’t I met you before?” It happened just recently, again. My father always claimed this same thing also plagued him all his life.

The deputies in the office were on the phones and making sideways glances at me. I explained, repeatedly, where I’d lived and worked and where I was on the day of the robbery. I gave them several contact names and phone numbers. None of that dissuaded them, and I began to worry about missing my flight to Denver. It was the last flight of the night and I didn’t relish spending the night in the airport or in jail!

After telling my story several times, I finally tired of the situation and asked, “Am I under arrest, because if not, I am leaving”. One of the largest and tallest cops I have ever seen in my life turned his chair away from his desk and placed his feet up on the wall blocking my exit down the narrow passage along the desks.

One of the deputies said “OK - you can go - but we need a picture of you”.

“Fine”, I said, “but I am going to make my flight”. I walked out of the office up the stairs to the concourse and out to the gate with two deputies trailing me. I sat down and waited. With the deputies hovering nearby, people began to move away from me in the waiting area.

The flight began boarding when a fat, older deputy showed up with a camera and asked for my picture. He and the other two deputies took me to an adjacent gate area that was slightly dark and I stood against the wall for a picture. The deputy seemed unfamiliar with the operation of the camera and sure enough, while adjusting the lens he tripped the flash, blinded himself temporarily, and dropped the camera. All this action was clearly visible from the gate area for my flight. The deputies finally got a picture of me. I made the flight - the last one on board before the door closed.

Landing in Denver, after a flight on which no one sat within four rows of me, I walked off the plane and was greeted by my Mother who I hadn’t seen in a couple years.

“How was your flight, honey”?, she asked.
“Oh fine, Mom, just fine”.
“How do you like the Northwest?”

“It’s grand, just wonderful, Mom”.


Have a comment?

Jim, I thought I'd had some tough travel experiences, but removing the emergency exit door (your earlier story)and mouthing off to cops when they think you are a fleeing bank robber beat me hands down.

Dawn Woodruff